North West 200 races contribute £9m to local economy

What is the value of the TT to the Isle of Man? Or the cost to Northamptonshire if, as seems likely, it loses the 2018 MotoGP to Donington. Data like this is, presumably, collated by event organisers in order to persuade local authorities, tourist boards etc. to be helpful in providing some financing and/or to ward off complaints about noise, often from people who have only been living in the area for five minutes. Persuasive only if it tells the right story.

Well, one local council has done just that and it has produced some very interesting, perhaps even surprising, results. The event was the 2017 North West 200, the research was commissioned by the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council and it was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre.

Here are some of the stats:

1) Over the three race days of the event, the attendance of individual spectators was 82,000, only a minority being ‘local’.

2) The non-locals, staying for more than a day, occupied 70,000 nights in boarding house/hotel beds spending some £2.05m on accommodation.

3) Expenditure on food, shopping, transport and other entertainment - including drink! - amounted to £7m. Total, including accommodation, over £9m.

4) Do the locals like the North West in that it presents a positive image of the area - yes they do, 96% positive.

5) Do visitors want to come back? The great majority, 86%, said they felt “more positive” about the area as the host of the NW200.

6) Should the local council continue to support and host major sporting events? Again, local people responded with a resounding 92% yes.

All this is music to the ears of Event Director Mervyn Whyte and, one assumes, must have influenced his decision to continue in that role following a couple of very difficult years dogged by bad weather. Of course, the cynic who regards all information put out by promoters, especially on attendances, as propaganda will be more than happy to quote Oscar Wilde’s famous denunciation: “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Yes, and of course the North West has an almost immeasurable attendance because virtually all of it is free. All that can be said is that this was not commissioned by the Coleraine and District Motor Club but by the local authority and conducted by a very reputable research body conducting over 1000 interviews, half of which were face to face.

Their summary says the economic impact to the area was £9.80m and that very high level of residents and visitors were proud of the event being held in their area.

Whatever your view, it is surely very encouraging for the hardworking volunteers who run all Irish road racing as they face the immense difficulties posed by weather and increasing issues over danger.

But why don’t we see more of this from other race organisers. It would be fascinating to see something similar from the Manx Tourist Board. They must have it somewhere?

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